To be American is to represent America

  • Published
  • By Mr. Gary Garland
  • 374th Services Division director
Whether we know it or not, we are all ambassadors. As representatives of our country overseas, it is essential that we show the utmost respect for ourselves, our nation and our host country. Our behavior can directly improve or impair the degree of respect and support others show for America.

The majority of the world views America through the eyes of Hollywood and the media. Many times, this is not a flattering or true picture of our home. In some instances, individuals make presumptions about Americans in general, not because of something bad they have heard or read, but because of a personal experience or even a momentary observation.

In public, because of what you represent, you are always on center stage. It is your responsibility to be a good ambassador; you could be the reason why citizens of other countries develop a positive perception of Americans.

What makes a good ambassador? A good starting point is our Air Force Core Values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. These standards are not just for our military members, but for all in our military community. If you take the time to think about these words and apply them in your life, the "right" decisions are not decisions at all, but common sense. These values must remain when you take off your uniform or are away from the base.

"Integrity first" equals honesty. Do the right thing and be honest with yourself as well as others. "Service before self" is putting others first; caring about others whoever they may be, helping those in need and not dismissing or ignoring someone that needs your help. "Excellence in all we do" pretty much embraces all of life. Take care of your obligations, project the right image, and take every opportunity to improve yourself.

As you travel in this beautiful country and interact with our Japanese friends and hosts, keep these values in mind. It is good and normal to be curious, but our values are not necessarily universal. Respect different belief systems and attitudes. Most importantly, be considerate of others and their feelings.

What qualities are typical of a bad ambassador? Narrow-mindedness limits your ability to properly represent our country. It is never appropriate to "brag" that you or our nation is better than any other. There is always room for us to learn and grow, but there are those bad ambassadors who travel around feeling that they know everything that is really worth knowing.

Good ambassadors lead by example while bad ambassadors are self-righteous and put unreasonable demands on the quality of other people's behavior while placing little or no demands on themselves. Hate and anger seem to be a driving force of bad ambassadors. No one has the right to blame or punish others because of assumptions they make based on biased media or stereotypes.

There are bad ambassadors in every country. However, we should be able to recognize that bad ambassadors do not represent or speak for an entire nation. We should not have negative feelings or words towards an entire group of people based on a couple bad apples.

Finally, it is always necessary to be honest with ourselves. Bad ambassadors have unrealistic views as to what is true and are willing to manipulate information to support their belief systems.

Are you a good ambassador? The answer is yes if you are doing everything you can to properly represent yourself and our country. Being a good ambassador requires several important qualities, but the basic ingredients are simply a combination of good manners and common sense.
There are several things you can do to be a good ambassador during your tour in Japan and as you travel around the world. First, take the time to learn about the culture. Second, explore and meet different people. You will be amazed at how different and yet how much we have in common. Finally, when you visit another country, show humility and graciousness. Utilizing these simple ideals will be appreciated everywhere you travel.

Properly representing America requires ambassadors to show respect for themselves, America and other countries. We belong to a great nation, represent us well.